The figures were released in Internet service tracker Sandvine’s Global Internet Phenomena report. It found that “real-time entertainment,” otherwise known as services providing streaming video and audio, now accounts for over 70 percent of downstream traffic during North American peak hours. Five years ago, the category accounted for less than 35 percent.
As VentureBeat reports, the dominant individual service remains Netflix. The film and TV streaming provider accounts for 35 percent of traffic on its own. It is followed by YouTube’s 17 percent share. On mobile devices, YouTube was the most popular at over 20 percent. Facebook claimed second place with 16 percent.
Sandvine also looked at Internet usage in other regions. In Africa, WhatsApp is the most popular individual service, accounting for nearly 11 percent of total traffic. BlackBerry comes in second at just over 7 percent, followed by Facebook, BitTorrent and YouTube. The report notes that the use of streaming is likely to increase as better Internet connections become available.
In the Middle East, investments in broadband infrastructure have yet streaming services enjoy a level of popularity similar to what they experience in the U.S. YouTube is the most popular application with an almost 20 percent share of traffic, followed by general web applications, Facebook at 11.2% and Instagram at 10.6%.
The increase in popularity of streaming has come at the expense of other kinds of application. BitTorrent is experiencing a steady decline in traffic share, now accounting for 5 percent of total North American traffic. During the same period last year BitTorrent represented 7 percent of Internet usage.
Sandvine assessed the impact of recent high-profile software launches that lead to spikes in traffic on broadband networks. It found Windows 10’s July roll-out did not “break the Internet” as some had speculated it would because Microsoft decided to release it in waves, preventing everybody from downloading the 6GB files at the same time.
Although there was a peak when the OS was released to Windows Insiders, the update failed to generate exceptional traffic on its July 29 public launch day. It accounted for 3-4 percent of all network usage and overall traffic originating from Windows Update was actually half that of July 28.
Sandvine says Microsoft “should really be applauded” for the way in which Windows 10 was rolled out, noting “the largest digital software release in history had no significant impact on network experience.”
— Re/code (@Recode) December 7, 2015
It’s a different story when looking at the September 9 release of the FIFA 16 public beta. One major U.S. broadband operator found it became the biggest gaming event in history, beating the likes of Call of Duty and Grand Theft Auto’s launches. Gamers across multiple different platforms quickly downloaded the 4GB files, tripling daily gaming traffic and pushing total bandwidth usage of the operator’s network up to 8 percent higher than usual.
Sandvine suggests future game launches should consider a Windows 10-style phased roll-out to alleviate the burden on broadband providers. It said “it may benefit the industry to explore a better system for distribution”, noting Microsoft’s solution would be an “ideal model” that would “result in a better experience for gamers who could begin playing the game immediately when it is released” as well as reducing network congestion.